Cracking CAT to get into the IIMs
IIMs send calls based on your CAT percentiles + many other factors and it is very common to find students receiving calls at as low as low 90+ percentiles. However, the approach one should take to prepare for CAT, is to try to maximise one’s percentile. A decent percentile to target, in order to ensure a high quality of interview calls would be 99+ and if possible 99.5+ percentile.
The funda to get 99+ percentile in the CAT is quite simple:
Get a score of 180+ out of a net score of 300 and you would get 99.8+ percentile;
Get a score of 170+ out of a net score of 300 and you would get 99.5+ percentile;
Get a score of 150+ out of a net score of 300 and you would get 99.5+ percentile;
So, the focus really has to be on getting to that magic figure of 150+ and upwards in order to make sure that your score draws an interest from the IIMs.
So, my first piece of advice:
Control your score, your percentile would take care of itself.
So, the second challenge then presents itself: How does one score 150+ or for that matter 180+?
Knowing that CAT uses a +3, -1 marking scheme, the answer is simple really: 60 attempts with 5 errors should do it.
Across three sections it then means: 20 attempts on average per section with an average of 1–2 errors per section.
So, the theme moves to:
Control your attempts and control your errors, your percentile would take care of itself.
So everything you do during your CAT prep has to focus on trying to get yourself ready for the specific time when a question comes in front of you on your computer screen. Based on your preparation and the expertise you have developed for the question type, for the particular you could have three reactions to a question:
a) I know this question & hence this is easy;
b) I know this logic & hence I should be able to solve this;
c) I know this topic & hence I can try;
d) I don’t have any idea, so I should leave this.
Needless to say, the ideal and the best reactions for a well prepared student is/are (a) or (b). While in an exam like CAT, you cannot work for Reaction (a), if you have studied well and intelligently, a lot of reaction (b) would be happening - and if so, some overflow into reaction (a) would be inevitable.
The most dangerous reaction in the context of the CAT test taking is reaction (c). This is because of the fact that students would not be able to solve all these questions - and hence, in ‘trying’ these questions, they would end up losing precious time without adding to their attempts. This, in turn creates unnecessary time pressure and leads to further errors in solving subsequent questions.
As you should well know, given time, even intelligent school kids should be able to solve 60+ questions in the CAT. The key is doing it in the given time - hence, avoiding the ‘let me try this question’ reaction becomes the key to cracking this exam.
And that brings me to the final piece of advice:
For a typical CAT test paper, Populate Reaction (a) and Reaction (b); The attempts will take care of themselves. Control your attempts, and you control your score. Control your score and you control your percentile. Control your percentile and you control your destiny in the CAT.
As I tell anyone who cares to ask me about my CAT percentiles always ranging between 99.91 to 99.99 (ever since the CAT started giving out percentiles) as to how I score these percentiles - my answer always is: I just control the number of questions I solve, and the percentile takes care of itself. :)
Just to give you a sample:
So I solved 92 questions in CAT 14, and I scored 99.96 percentile;
I solved 84 questions in CAT 15 and I scored 99.87 percentile;
I solved 79 questions in CAT 16 and I scored 99.97 percentile;
I have solved 84 questions and I will update you about what I scored soon :)